5 Reasons to Use Fabric Structures in Mining Operations
Ian Wright posted on September 27, 2016 |
Fabric buildings offer a fast and reusable alternative to steel with comparable strength, ideal for ...

Mining is one of the oldest industries, stretching all the way back to the very beginnings of human civilization. Of course, the technology for mineral prospecting, extraction and processing have advanced considerably since the Paleolithic era. Modern mining utilizes advanced technologies such as gravity gradiometry, robotics and even autonomous vehicles.

With impressive tools like these, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important parts of any mining operation: the site infrastructure. Nevertheless, none of these technologies is worth its salt (pardon the play on words) without adequate shelter.

This aspect of mining may not seem to have advanced as much over the years compared to other technologies, but fabric industrial structures show this is not the case. 

Although fabric structures have a variety of applications, here are five of their principal advantages in the context of mining.

1) Cost Effectiveness

Cost is a crucial factor to consider when setting up a new mine. Compared to similar metal structures, fabric buildings can often be erected at a significantly lower cost.

“By the time you include construction, we’re the same price or 20-30 percent less than conventional [metal] structures,” said Ben Fox, president and CEO of Legacy Building Solutions. Moreover, even when the construction cost of a fabric building is equivalent to a steel one, the former can still be more cost effective in other ways.

For example, the fabric’s translucency cuts down on lighting costs. However, it’s in repair costs where fabric buildings really shine. “Our fabric is made in individual panels—typically 20 feet wide—and attached individually to the frame,” explained Fox. “One of the benefits of that is that the panels can be individually replaced, which is a lot less inconvenient and less costly for the customer.”

According to Fox, this means that repair costs can be as low as USD$2 per square foot for fabric structures, compared to $7 per square foot for steel buildings.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

2) Time to Build

Given the structural similarities between steel and fabric buildings, it may come as a surprise that the latter can be erected much more quickly than the former. “One of the main reasons to choose fabric is that it goes up quickly,” said Fox. “Our buildings take about a third of the installation time of a steel building of comparable size.”

This is true despite the fact that fabric buildings use the same foundations as their steel counterparts. “It can be any kind of foundation,” said Fox, “whether that’s earth anchors, precast concrete; it can even have a pier foundation. It does need to have a foundation, but it doesn’t have to be a specific kind.”  

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

3) Structural Integrity

Mining presents a tough environment for any structure, fabric or otherwise. Since fabric buildings use the same rigid steel frames as steel buildings, from a structural standpoint the two are on even footing. However, fabric buildings have the advantage of being rust and corrosion-resistant, with their support beams and trusses typically hot dip galvanized to inhibit oxidation.

In addition, since fabric buildings do not use screws or nails that penetrate the outside roof and wall structures, there are no holes through which water can enter to promote rust and corrosion.

This lack of nails and screws also makes fabric buildings well-suited for sorting and processing buildings housing shaker tables or other vibrating equipment. “There aren’t any nails or small fasteners to shake out,” said Fox.

Fabric structures are also able to accommodate heavy winds and snow loads. “Our engineers calculate the snow load for a building and that’s designed into it,” explained Fox.  

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

4) Reusability

In addition to being a tough environment, a mine can have a relatively short lifespan—in some cases just two or three years. When it comes time to pack up and move on, the question of what to with all the buildings becomes especially pressing. Although steel-framed fabric buildings are designed to be permanent structures, they can also be expanded, reduced or relocated as needed.

“We made a building for a dealership doing renovations for just that reason,” Fox commented. “The building comes down the same way we put it up: one fabric panel at a time. It’s just everything in reverse. All the components can be reused at the new site.”

Fox also stated that Legacy covers will last 20-30 years without any special treatment, which makes them well-suited to reuse. 

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

5) Remediation

When a mine finally does shut down, the mining company is often expected to remediate the surrounding land. Thanks to their relatively short time to build, coupled with their reusability, fabric buildings are an excellent option when it comes to site remediation.

Since fabric buildings can be installed using a variety of foundations, opting for a helical pier foundation, for example, makes removing the buildings and returning the land to pristine condition relatively simple.

Fabric buildings have also been used specifically for site remediation, as Fox explained: “Our buildings are often used for remediation. If you have, for example, toxic products that need to be under cover you can put one of our buildings up around it. We design the building to accommodate the product as well as any equipment or machinery needed for the remediation.”

In the mining industry, whether for haul truck maintenance, workshops, garages, batch plants or tire shops, fabric buildings offer a strong, fast and reusable alternative to steel, ideal for reuse and site remediation.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

For more information, visit the Legacy Building Solutions website.

Legacy Building Solutions has sponsored this post. All opinions are mine. –Ian Wright

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